TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
Headlining the bill, former 135lb champion Holly Holm returns from the longest layoff of her career with a tricky assignment against the always-game Ketlen Vieira.
Meanwhile there will be fireworks in the co-main as two of the welterweight division’s most entertaining men duke it out when Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on Michel Pereira.
And with a host of rising stars also set to feature on the bill from the Fight Capital, you don’t want to be anywhere else when the action gets underway on Saturday night.
Here are three reasons you can’t miss UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Vieira.
Holly Holm will return from the longest layoff of her combat sports career when she makes her long-awaited Octagon return on Saturday night.
By the time she strides into the iconic arena this weekend, the 40-year-old will have endured a record 595-day layoff since an impressive victory over Irene Aldana last time out.
Holm had largely escaped without having to deal with serious injury over the course of her career until a serious knee injury and then further medical withdrawal forced the cancellation of her last two scheduled appearances.
I hate to lose... no matter what is on the line
- Holly Holm
However, “The Preacher’s Daughter” is now back fighting fit and ready to remind the world what she’s capable of against a solid contender in Ketlen Vieira.
In her absence from competition, the bantamweight division saw a new champion crowned when Julianna Pena shocked the world to dethrone Amanda Nunes at UFC 269 last December.
That result leaves the prospect of a potential title shot for the victor on Saturday night very much on the cards – but the veteran striker has refused to get carried away with thinking too far ahead than then challenge in front of her this weekend.
“I have to win regardless,” Holm said.
“I hate to lose. I just hate to lose, period. No matter what’s on the line. Whether I’m in practice training – I want to win the rounds when I’m in training. If I’m in front of two people, if I’m in front of 2 million people, if I’m in front of the whole world. I just hate to lose. That’s No. 1. I want to get in there and I want to win on Saturday.
“But as far as a career, if you don’t win your next steps and your next options are never as many as you want and they’re more limited. You take a step back instead of a step forward. So yes, in the long run, I need this win so that I can keep progressing forward because I want to get to the belt.”
The mic man cometh
Santiago Ponzibbio believes his experience in working as part of the UFC’s fight night broadcast team in recent years has helped him develop as a mixed martial artist.
The Argentine welterweight returns to action this weekend for the first time since dropping a narrow split-decision defeat to Geoff Neal in December hoping to show he’s put the last five months to good use.
Asked how his perspective on fighting from inside the commentary booth has changed his approach to competition, the 35-year-old replied: “It helps for sure.
“I’m studying all divisions, all games, and that helps you. You can see when you’re watching [fights] live so many different things. When you’re watching a lot of fights when you’re really involved in the sport, I think you’re going to take in different things.
Pereira is one of the most spectacular fighters in the UFC
- Santiago Ponzinibbio
“I also very enjoy this work. I love to stay involved in the fights in another way. I’ve been doing it for almost seven years, I really enjoy it.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Ponzinibbio had pieced together a seven-fight win streak in the 170lb division and was being touted as a potential title challenger in waiting.
But his momentum ground to a halt over a period of more than two years without a fight, succumbing to a staph infection that derailed his progress throughout 2019 and 2020.
Now 1-2, including a bonus-winning victory against Miguel Baeza last year, since returning to action in January 2021, Ponzinibbio is keen to make up for lost time and rediscover winning ways.
"Pereira is one of the most spectacular fighters in the UFC. Nobody has ever done what he is doing,” Ponzinibbio said of his opponent on Saturday night.
“Also, he is coming is coming off four straight wins, building great momentum in the company. And he likes to brawl just like myself, so I thought it could be a great opportunity to give a great show to the fans.”
Armed with one of the best nicknames in the UFC, Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani makes his second appearance inside the Octagon this weekend looking to build on a seriously impressive debut last time out.
The middleweight kickboxing standout needed just 16 seconds to render Marc-Andre Barriault senseless, etching his name in the history books with the 13th-fastest knockout in UFC history.
“I wish I could do it again,” Njokuani laughed in an interview with UFC.com.
“It meant a lot. I couldn’t write out the story any better. It’s not like I just jumped into the game and got a UFC debut. I’ve been doing this for the longest and I’ve been trying to get in for the longest, and to finally get in and make a debut like that, it was like the cherry on top.”
The 33-year-old now faces a tougher test in the form of Dusko Todorovic – himself known to be a capable fight finisher with 10 of his 11 career wins coming by stoppage.
But the Dallas born technician is confident of producing another eye-catching performance inside the APEX this weekend, adding: “Everywhere we go, you’ll just see how dominant I am and that’s it.
“I’m always one step ahead and I want to show that.”